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A Testing Ground for Energy Storage in the Shadow of Mt. Fuji

A patch of land in the shadow of Mount Fuji is becoming a testing ground for energy storage, with some of Japan’s leading companies trying to develop technologies such as spinning flywheels and fuel cells.

The government of Yamanashi, a prefecture 102 kilometers (63 miles) west of Tokyo, is hoping that by attracting companies such as Panasonic Corp. and Toray Industries Inc. it can become a kind of Silicon Valley for energy storage development.

As part of a project in Kofu City, the prefecture has built a 1-megawatt solar power station that’s being made available to developers of storage devices who want to run tests under closed conditions, according to Masaki Sakamoto, an official in charge of the project.

“It’s not easy to find a large-scale solar power station available for pilot projects,” Sakamoto said. “The best scenario would be that advanced research being conducted here leads to more collaboration between major and local companies and the creation of supply chains.”

Projects like the one in Yamanashi underline how Japan is racing to dominate a new age of energy technologies using a model similar to the one used by the nation to develop its automobile and semiconductor industries.

The site in Yamanashi, one of Japan’s sunniest regions, is already home to a flywheel system in a pilot program to adjust output from the solar plant. Flywheel storage devices use spinning drums to store kinetic energy in a way that can later be turned into electricity.

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